"These silences are soon getting replaced by something else: by the sounds from before, by the sounds in expectation,
YZ (Yuko Zama): Ryoko, I heard that you were the person who initiated this recording project. How did you come up with the idea of this project?
RA (Ryoko Akama): I moved to the North of England in 2012. Since then, I had occasionally organized concerts and eventually set up '
YZ: Why did you decide to ask Stefan
RA: I enjoy what his music delivers in every aspect, in terms of composition, performance, and aesthetics. Stefan's music is sensible and delicate, but also is very determined. I like how he integrates ideas of the musical and the non-musical into a piece. The same respect goes to lo
YZ: Stefan, when Ryoko commissioned you to write a piece for her ensemble (for six musicians), what came up in your mind as an inspiration or idea?
YZ: Ryoko and Stefan, what led you to decide to record this piece with this particular ensemble of six musicians (including Stefan and you)?
RA: We had an afternoon workshop and evening concert a day prior to the recording session at Access Space, Sheffield. Stefan composed a piece ‘away’ for a trio of himself, lo
ST: Ryoko did not directly ask me to write a new piece for the occasion. She suggested to meet, play, and record some of my music. Then I had to find out what 'my music‘ could be for the project. Of
YZ: Why did you name the title of the piece 'about'?
ST: The title came from the activity of 'walking about'. I knew the space from a performance of my
Stefan Thut 'about' score (page A1, B1) (2017)
YZ: What was the main concept (or an idea) for this composition ‘about’? Or, what did you and Ryoko want to achieve via the realization of this particular piece?
ST: With this composition, I was interested in how to attribute a meaning to silence while basically playing sounds throughout the entire piece, though with pauses. This may sound contradictory at first sight. I was looking for a specific kind of sound that made us want to let time pass before playing the next sound. That is why there were short sounds occurring, mostly hit, plucked or bowed shortly. The most important element was that of the ringing material, the vibration of the string after having been set in motion, the activation of the air inside the bottle by ear aid devices. This again is connected to our recording situation.
YZ: This recording gives me a unique sensation of experiencing the sounds synched with me 'inside' my brain, while I also feel the sounds coming from far from 'outside'. There is this really nice open feel in the piece, and at the same time, it also contains the sense of "unity" or a silent intensity in the atmosphere, without each musician's sound scattering around with random activities at all. This experience of feeling different perspectives (inside and outside) in a sense of unity is very interesting to me, and seems to give the piece a very wide open, free space for the listeners to experience the "sounds" and "silence" both inside their minds and outside their realities at the same time. Did you intend something like that with this piece?
ST: Thank you for the beautiful description - reading this tells me about the intertwining of listener -
By the way, your words remind me of Rilke’s first verses of the opening of The Sonnets To Orpheus:
There the tree rises.
(in the German original, literally: oh great tree inside the ear)
And all is silent, And from this silence arise
New beginnings, intimations,
(Rainer Maria Rilke The Sonnets To Orpheus, English translation © Robert Temple 2010)
YZ: Fascinating connection! There is a large amount of silence in this piece, but what did you intend to attain with these silences in this piece?
ST: Structurally speaking, there are silences occurring again and again. On the other
What I am interested in here is to not just leave space with silence but a group situation wherein silences occur as an outcome of the musicians' activity. Here each performer follows the vanishing of sound and only thereafter continues with the next sound. This process is multiplied by the number of performers: six pairs of ears are aware of the decay of sound (according to the score). For me, this kind of focus on 'something vanishing' created a state of pure attentiveness.
YZ: What did you like about this particular ensemble of musicians?
ST: I was impressed by their carefulness, their curiosity about their own sounds and the sounds of the others. It is a rather unusual and unique situation to get together in a certain setting to record immediately without a preliminary performance. I think Ryoko had the genuine intuition that this was going to work.
YZ: In our early email, you mentioned that all the musicians felt as if they were 'elsewhere' after the performance. Can you tell me more about the special experience (or sensation) that you and the musicians felt after the performance? And what sort of natures (in this music) do you think brought you all to this special feeling?
ST: I think this kind of music provokes a drifting of the mind. In my experience it is inevitable.
YZ: If there was one (or more) thing which all of your musicians were sharing during the performance, what do you think it was (or they were)? Was there any particularly strong sense of a concept that all the musicians kept in their minds during the performance?
ST: What we all shared was the possibility of having two states of being organized: that of acting in the group and that of ‘being on one’s own’ by standing up, making a few steps, and saying a word. The latter was not necessarily addressed to the group. The words appeared for
YZ: If there is anything else you have in your mind about this piece and the recording of these musicians, or anything particularly impressed you concerning this collaboration?
ST: Each word was meant to be a sound that had one impetus, reminiscent of the sound quality of the previously performed tones on each instrument. With the use of monosyllabic words, the level of semantics is not apparent. The multilingual situation makes the words even more
YZ: Ryoko, how did you (and other musicians) feel after performing this piece together?
RA: I personally find it hard to use my voice in performances. A non-vocalist tends to get self-conscious about his/her own voice. Moreover, this piece asked performers to ‘walk around’
(Recording session of 'about' with Simon Reynell in September 2017)
The recording happened in Phipps Hall at the Huddersfield University. I chose the space for some practical reasons, the acoustics, equipment availability
Strangely enough, performing a score like ‘about’’ has a similar mentality. I felt that sort of sense when we performed the piece. The first take was a little awkward but the second and the third were more naturally embedded into the situation. Stephen concentrating on his guitar and forgetting everything else around him, Eleanor plucking piano strings so gracefully, Stefan observing and carefully listening, lo
Listening back to the piece is a different matter. Now, the music permits another environment. I am more objective, in a room away from where I was. Now, I experience silence differently, and silence is different from what it was then. The piece evokes a new scene in my alone time. This is a beautiful metamorphosis of a score. I wonder if I can call this moment - an afterlife of the score - the ever-changing translation and the rebirth of a creative work?
(Interview conducted by Yuko Zama, September - October 2018)